Finding Balance and Botany in British Columbia

I cannot say I ever wanted to go to British Columbia, Vancouver or the west coast of Canada. It never crossed my mind one way or the other. Years ago, I did go on a date with a man from Vancouver. He was managing a film shoot in front of my building. It was a car explosion scene. I was on the way home from the grocery store, but I forgot my keys inside my flat. I needed to get home to cook for my dinner party. He would not let me enter my street because of the filming. I got his attention. He listened to my story. He asked if he could help. He tossed his walkie to colleague, ran to my building. Smiling, he picked two locks on different levels. Surprised and impressed, I gave him my number.

The clever one showed up to eat red beans and rice that night with my friends. Mysterious, super natural and a bit magical. I invited him, but he could have found his way in. I did not know that his spirit embodied his home itself. Vancouver was a nameless place to me. But, last year that changed. I spent November in British Columbia: Vancouver, Richmond, Squamish and Whistler. It's off-season: don't let that scare you. I've included my favorite places to see nature and feel its supreme wild beauty.

Pacific Spirit Regional Park

 

Experience trails, cliffs, creeks, bogs and beaches of super luscious greenery. How many shades of green are there? The air is pure. There’s moss growing on everything, and it’s a treat to take these trails. There’s over 30 miles of trails for walking, biking, running and horse-back riding. It’s Canada’s third largest urban park. The University of British Columbia is walkable so feel free to rest in a museum or two if you get tired. Bikes are welcome here but we just trekked on foot. You’ll feel in the middle of forest with a complete canopy protecting you - even in Fall. Wonder in awe as long as you’d like to gain a feeling of rejuvenation.

Headed towards the inside

Headed towards the inside

All trails are unique - some are hikers-only

All trails are unique - some are hikers-only

Queen Elizabeth Park and van dusen botanical gardens

 

These two parks are close together. You can do them in one shot with endurance. Queen Elizabeth Park offers a wonderful rose garden and spectacular views of downtown Vancouver. It’s the highest point within the city limits, and you can take in everything: mountains, water and urban living. Van Dusen Botanical Gardens is epic. You need days to see the whole thing. My favorites were the zen rock gardens. They are beautifully constructed, unique and offer small moments of peace while traveling. There’s also a Rhododendron trail for Azelea nerds out there. I love this concept and got a kick out of so many species thoughtfully curated together.

Broom rape plant

Broom rape plant

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Dr. sun yat sen Classical Chinese Garden

This garden is a quick walk from downtown. Check the calendar for events. The traditional music was amazing. We went at sunset and soaked up reflections of the beautiful architecture. The garden is set within walls that have geometric designs of negative space with light shining through. Everything from the woodwork in the buildings, to the ground and walls were designed with symmetry in mind. It’s soothing and a wealth of pattern-candy. We also witnessed a traditional tea ceremony and had the chance to practice calligraphy. It’s an interesting technique where you’re able to do strokes but the paint evaporates. We tasted teas brought from China and were introduced to the complex practice of tea-making.

 
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My highlights

  • Eat your heart out on the Dumpling Trail in Richmond, British Colombia

  • Raft down a river in Squamish for peak Bald Eagle viewing (more than 3K were counted as the record - 1994)

  • Drive up Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler for the first weekend the slopes are open

  • Have the best eating day in Squamish: bennies at Fergie’s, pizza at Backcountry Brewing, fish and chips at the local pub

  • Grab a double-baked almond croissant (and fantastic espresso) at MatchBox in Chinatown

  • Try Beef Noodle Soup made by Chef Hung - the three-time Tiawanese champion

  • Stay up late just for the 2AM dosa (shrimp was exceptional and unique)

  • Bike Stanley Park and check out Lion’s Gate Bridge (good luck on the hills!)